Skip to main content

Full text of "My country and my people"

See other formats


IDEALS    OF    LIFE                        115
The Chinese ideal of happiness was, then, not the "exercise of one's powers along the lines of their excellence/' as was that of the Greeks, but the enjoyment of this simple rural life, together with the harmony of social relationships.
The real force of Taoism, especially among the people, however, consists largely in supplying a world of unknowables, which Confucian good sense banished from its province of ideas. It is recorded in the Analects that Confucius seldom talked about the supernatural and the spirits. Confucianism offered no hell and no heaven, nor any formula for immortality of the soul. It solved the problems of human nature, but left out of consideration the riddle of the universe. It was at a loss to know even the workings of the human body. In this way, it left a large loophole in its philosophy, and allowed the popular mind to disentangle, with the help of Taoistic mysticism, the mysteries of nature.
The workings of this mind were soon apparent in Huainantse (178-122 B.C.), who mixed philosophy with a wonderland of spirits and legends. Starting out with the dualistic notion of yin (female) and yang (male) principles, already current in the period of the Warring Kingdoms, Taoism soon added to its territory the fairies of the ancient Shantung barbarians, who dreamed of a fairyland out on the high seas, to which place the first emperor of Ch'in actually started out with five hundred boys and virgins to seek his immortality. The hold on the imagination then became irresistible, and from that time till the present Taoism has always maintained a firm foothold on the Chinese people, especially in the T'ang Dynasty, when it became for a long period the state religion, known as the Mystic Religion (because the T'ang imperial house had the same surname as Laotse, Li). In the Wei and Ch'in Dynasties its vogue was so great as to completely overshadow Confucianism, and the fashion for Taoism became connected with the first romantic movement of Chinese literature and with the reaction against Confucian decorum, as it had been transformed by the late Han scholars. One of the famous poets compared the Confucian gentleman walking in his narrow path of righteousness to a bug creeping along the seams of a man's trousers. Man's nature had rebelled against Confucian